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FlyingBird_

Things you wish you knew before you started med

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Hi everyone!

I'm here looking for some advice. I'm the first person in my family to go to university and consequently the first person to pursue med. I feel like there are a lot of unknowns - which is pretty daunting. 

If anyone has any advice, tips, mistakes-not to make, ways to prepare ahead, etc. I would love to hear from you.

I made several mistakes in my undergrad because I didn't ask for help and advice from upper years... I don't want to do the same for med.

Many thanks from me and others in a similar position -- :)

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If you are interested in something competitive and niche (Derm, Plastics, Ophtho, ENT), keep that shit to yourself and do not tell another soul in your class or else they will make fun of you non-stop about it!

There will be some really privileged and well connected people in your class (parents bought them a house/apartment and car for med, parents are attendings at your med school or in Toronto lol), try to not let that bother you 

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This might be a bit pessimistic but think really hard if this is truly what you want. A lot of my classmates probably would think twice about medicine in retrospect, but are basically cornered into finishing school and doing residency to pay off their debt. I don't think many of us realized how difficult it is to be away from support networks and family for so long, especially if you need to move for medical school and again for residency. Throw in a sick family member or aging parents and it really sucks.

CaRMS is the worst and the match is just getting more and more ridiculous. Even if you want FM, you can't treat it as a guarantee that you'll get your top choice of programs. Lots of students I know gunning for FM this year got completely burned by their home school and ranked far down on their rank list. 

I know that was pretty negative, but if you think it's right for you, go for it! I enjoyed most of medical school and would probably do it again if I could. Medical schools desperately need students from diverse backgrounds and experiences. The amount of privilege can be overwhelming and frustrating, but as swoman said, try to not let it bother you. There will be students with similar backgrounds as you.

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Summers in Med school are for R & R. These are the last long periods of relaxing, enjoying family and friends you will have until retirement. Don’t waste your precious time working.

Be adaptable, flexible, have an open mind as regards fields of medicine for a career. Do not be worried about the gunners who are doing all sorts of research, believing it will make s difference for residency selection. It all comes down to yourcsoft skills, beng a nice person, easy to get along with, being a motivated and hard worker, willing to stay late to help out an overworked resident, being a good team member who will make a goal d fit. 

Everybody is different. I found medschool hard work and I was always studying. Other than PBL, I never attended lectures as I found I could use my time far more efficiently as a self learner, and able to scan the lecture notes in a fraction of the time the lectures took.

For CaRMS, apply to 2-3 fields where you believe you will be fulfilled, at least that is what I did, and let the powers that be makecthe final selection.

Ifcfeasible, share an apartment with classmates, it will be beneficial for many reasons and long friendships will result, while you can each help each other out.

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7 minutes ago, Bambi said:

Summers in Med school are for R & R. These are the last long periods of relaxing, enjoying family and friends you will have until retirement. Don’t waste your precious time working.

Be adaptable, flexible, have an open mind as regards fields of medicine for a career. Do not be worried about the gunners who are doing all sorts of research, believing it will make s difference for residency selection. It all comes down to yourcsoft skills, beng a nice person, easy to get along with, being a motivated and hard worker, willing to stay late to help out an overworked resident, being a good team member who will make a goal d fit. 

Everybody is different. I found medschool hard work and I was always studying. Other than PBL, I never attended lectures as I found I could use my time far more efficiently as a self learner, and able to scan the lecture notes in a fraction of the time the lectures took.

For CaRMS, apply to 2-3 fields where you believe you will be fulfilled, at least that is what I did, and let the powers that be makecthe final selection.

Ifcfeasible, share an apartment with classmates, it will be beneficial for many reasons and long friendships will result, while you can each help each other out.

I must add that your story is an exception. It's not the rule.

Failing to prepare=preparing to fail

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Start researching and narrowing down specialty choices now. Do not wait until your official electives to "explore" - that is when you should be putting your plan into action, not forming it.

Remember that what you might see during any one particular experience as a student is likely only a limited glimpse of the breadth of different practice settings/styles that might exist in the vast field of medicine. Therefore, read, and speak to those farther along in their careers (senior trainees may not have completely accurate ideas either). 

Yes, at the end of the day, it's most important to be considered (and also be) someone who is nice to work with. All other things being equal though, a stronger paper record will get your foot in the door to make that personal impression (outside of electives that are first come, first serve or lottery). It's a marker of hard work and motivation used to distinguish among equally unknown candidates.

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Keep doing what you're doing in terms of asking questions and taking initiative, especially at the school(s) where you're interested in doing residency.

Follow Lactic Folly's advice in terms of exploration - it's worth being ahead of the curve when it comes to setting up electives.

Keep the focussed attitude that brought to you med school, but make sure you add some balance to avoid burn-out.  Don't get too caught up in the social world of med school - I'd go with quality over quantity for friendships.

Elective and clinical performance is paramount, but having more doesn't hurt and is sometimes expected/necessary in some programs/specialties.

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I think the best advice I got from anyone before med school was from another resident at the time, which was that the point of med school wasn't necessarily to train you to become a physician (it used to be). The point of med school is to match. I didn't believe him that much initially in first year but now I would have to say I agree with him. 

You can't be a practicing physician or surgeon in canada without matching. Hence your energy in the next 3/4 years is to pass exams, do well in extracurriculars, and find out which residency you want and pursue it 100%. 

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13 hours ago, distressedpremed said:

I think the best advice I got from anyone before med school was from another resident at the time, which was that the point of med school wasn't necessarily to train you to become a physician (it used to be). The point of med school is to match. I didn't believe him that much initially in first year but now I would have to say I agree with him. 

You can't be a practicing physician or surgeon in canada without matching. Hence your energy in the next 3/4 years is to pass exams, do well in extracurriculars, and find out which residency you want and pursue it 100%. 

Our medical school class was told the same thing by the residents ahead of us - it's residency that trains you to become a physician. Medical school is but an introduction to the breadth of the field - the role of the student is too dissimilar from that of the resident or attending to serve as direct job training. ralk posted on this previously:

https://medicalblarg.blogspot.com/2016/01/underpants-gnome-theory-of-medical.html

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On 5/8/2019 at 6:59 PM, photato said:

This might be a bit pessimistic but think really hard if this is truly what you want. A lot of my classmates probably would think twice about medicine in retrospect, but are basically cornered into finishing school and doing residency to pay off their debt. I don't think many of us realized how difficult it is to be away from support networks and family for so long, especially if you need to move for medical school and again for residency. Throw in a sick family member or aging parents and it really sucks.

CaRMS is the worst and the match is just getting more and more ridiculous. Even if you want FM, you can't treat it as a guarantee that you'll get your top choice of programs. Lots of students I know gunning for FM this year got completely burned by their home school and ranked far down on their rank list. 

I know that was pretty negative, but if you think it's right for you, go for it! I enjoyed most of medical school and would probably do it again if I could. Medical schools desperately need students from diverse backgrounds and experiences. The amount of privilege can be overwhelming and frustrating, but as swoman said, try to not let it bother you. There will be students with similar backgrounds as you.

On a completely unrelated subject, I am writing an article about how medical students don't represent the general population, the average medical student is bright and come from a privileged background, which makes the profession of medicine as an elitist society, and explains the shortage of physicians with the complex vulnerable population. 

To OP, for the first two years of preclerkship, study well, even though medical school might not prepare you to be come a physician, but the medical knowledge always follows you and trust me, you don't want to relearn physiology as a medical resident when life is so busy. 

For clerkship, do you best at your core rotations and electives; get good LORs, work hard and be personable, and try your best to match to the program you want :) 

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36 minutes ago, LittleDaisy said:

On a completely unrelated subject, I am writing an article about how medical students don't represent the general population, the average medical student is bright and come from a privileged background, which makes the profession of medicine as an elitist society, and explains the shortage of physicians with the complex vulnerable population. 

To OP, for the first two years of preclerkship, study well, even though medical school might not prepare you to be come a physician, but the medical knowledge always follows you and trust me, you don't want to relearn physiology as a medical resident when life is so busy. 

For clerkship, do you best at your core rotations and electives; get good LORs, work hard and be personable, and try your best to match to the program you want :) 

Accessibility, not intelligence, may be an issue.  It might be better in QC because of structural reasons - i.e. candidates can get selected from CEGEP,  with much less initial investment in terms of time or money, which may permit more bright, motivated, students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to get accepted.

I tend to think that a solid foundation which can be built on and expanded is a good goal - ultimately, areas that aren't related at all to one's own practice will usually become less familiar.

It's good general advice - but doesn't include the tactical suggestions included for example by Lactic Folly.  I can't say I've ever met many med students that don't work hard, etc..  The reality is that even getting electives can sometimes be difficult :) 

Generally speaking, elective performance is more important than core rotations - at my school we don't even finish our cores until post-CaRMs.

 

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I wish I legitimately knew how much a grind med school, residency and the profession of medicine in general is. And then I consider how nice it would have been to simply sell coconuts off a beach in Turks and Caicos for a living instead of doing medicine. 

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1 hour ago, tere said:

Accessibility, not intelligence, may be an issue.  It might be better in QC because of structural reasons - i.e. candidates can get selected from CEGEP,  with much less initial investment in terms of time or money, which may permit more bright, motivated, students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to get accepted.

I tend to think that a solid foundation which can be built on and expanded is a good goal - ultimately, areas that aren't related at all to one's own practice will usually become less familiar.

It's good general advice - but doesn't include the tactical suggestions included for example by Lactic Folly.  I can't say I've ever met many med students that don't work hard, etc..  The reality is that even getting electives can sometimes be difficult :) 

Generally speaking, elective performance is more important than core rotations - at my school we don't even finish our cores until post-CaRMs.

 

Sorry to stay off topic to the OP.

Yeah I agree that accessibility is the main issue, coming from CEGEP background myself, I could deeply appreciate how applying right after CEGEP makes it much possible for me to apply from a disadvantaged background, with the medical tuition at 8000 K per year, all to say that I am very grateful for this structure which saves time and money. 

Whereas in ROC, it takes a lot of effort to do a 4 year bachelor degree tailored towards medicine, doing a lot of ECs/research/humanitarian trip, studying for MCAT, while preparing for MMI interviews without barriers if you come from a underprivileged background. You are not presented with the same opportunities. 

The AFMC is aware of this, and has been recommending faculties of medicine to make changes, but more needs to be done than said, I inherently believe that they should change the admission process itself to make medicine more accessible to the bright applicants from an underprivileged background. 

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On 5/5/2019 at 8:56 PM, FlyingBird_ said:

Hi everyone!

I'm here looking for some advice. I'm the first person in my family to go to university and consequently the first person to pursue med. I feel like there are a lot of unknowns - which is pretty daunting. 

If anyone has any advice, tips, mistakes-not to make, ways to prepare ahead, etc. I would love to hear from you.

I made several mistakes in my undergrad because I didn't ask for help and advice from upper years... I don't want to do the same for med.

Many thanks from me and others in a similar position -- :)

1) Your family won't have a freakin' clue what you do, nor will they understand the odds you've overcome and the competition you've beaten to get to where you are.  

2) Accept this with grace.

3) Never take your eyes off cash-flow.

4) Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.

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Your social circle matters. If you find the right group of people, you'll have a good time. If you surround yourself with assholes, you will be miserable. Unfortunately, there are a lot of assholes in Med school. Medicine attracts them like crazy, and schools do a poor job of screening them out during the application process. Locate them and avoid them at all costs as they will distract you from your primary objective, which is to match into your desired field.

 

These 4 years will determine what you will do for the next 40. Don't lose focus, and don't forget what you're there to do, which is to match into what you want. This should take priority over everything. I know a lot of people say to relax and take summers off, but I think this advice could not be more wrong. Start getting involved with research and events immediately, and do everything you can to match into your field. You're not there to find your soulmate or best friends or that other crap; actually I would strongly advise against getting involved with anyone from class romantically. 

 

A lot of people say that you won't find out what you'd like to do until a few years into medical school. From my experience, this is only true for a minority of people as most people have a pretty good idea of what they want to pursue already coming in. So pour all of your energy into that right now, because chances are you're going to stick with it.

 

Think about the match. That's all there is to it, everything else is secondary. You can worry about everything else once you've matched. These are the most important 4 (or 3) years of your career in medicine. Don't waste them. This is not the time to relax, despite what you would have thought. 

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On 5/5/2019 at 9:21 PM, swoman said:

If you are interested in something competitive and niche (Derm, Plastics, Ophtho, ENT), keep that shit to yourself and do not tell another soul in your class or else they will make fun of you non-stop about it!

I disagree with this -- wholeheartedly. 

Go into medicine with an open mind. Explore the fields, and once you find something you love, go for it and dont be afraid to be honest about your choices. Medicine is an incredibly small field, and word spreads very fast. If you tell someone you want one thing and end up doing something else, or if preceptors/residents hear from anyone else that you are a gunner for another field yet feigning interest in theirs, it can harm your reputation and their trust in you. Oh and unfortunately for you, they happen to know the folks in your field of interest and if they want to be malicious, they can drop a line about what they think about your integrity. 

Be a compassionate, helpful, hard-working and honest "competitive specialty" student, and while some of your classmates may poke fun of you, your friends wont (maybe a little ;)), and your reputation in the eyes of residents and staff in your field wont be tarnished. I wouldn't hold it against a student for loving the field I'm in (why wouldn't they love it, its obv the best!), but I would think less of their character if I knew they wanted this field and yet were going around pretending they wanted other fields for the sake of their classmates' approval. I also cannot tell you how many times I have been provided incredible connections to people in my field BY preceptors in other fields whom I was working with. I told them honestly what I wanted, and they went out of their way to connect me with people who became some of my most supportive mentors! Like I said, its a small world and people will go out of their way to help you once they like you, and may go out of their way to keep you out if they think you'll be a detriment to their field. 

Best of luck, OP! Message me if you need any more info :)

 

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13 hours ago, LittleDaisy said:

The AFMC is aware of this, and has been recommending faculties of medicine to make changes, but more needs to be done than said, I inherently believe that they should change the admission process itself to make medicine more accessible to the bright applicants from an underprivileged background. 

Again off topic, but AFMC seems to be slow to respond to anything with any actionable changes. I don’t expect real changes for years. If medical schools did actually try to more closely represent the population, they would also need to reexamine all of the ridiculous costs associated with medical school. 

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25 minutes ago, photato said:

Again off topic, but AFMC seems to be slow to respond to anything with any actionable changes. I don’t expect real changes for years. If medical schools did actually try to more closely represent the population, they would also need to reexamine all of the ridiculous costs associated with medical school. 

I believe that the medical school costs is not determined by AFMC, but how much the provincial government is willing to invest in medical education. AFMC could recommend to the provincial government to invest more in medical education, but it's essentially up to the government.  In Quebec, the government heavily subsidizes medical student's education, I was paying maximum 8000-9000 $ annually for clerkship, and it was even lower for pre-clerkship. But the downside is that Quebec's taxation system is quite complicated when you become a staff, now the CAQ wants to abolish physician incorporation, which makes the tax burden heavier. 

The barriers with AFMC is that they could recommend changes to each faculty of medicine for socio-economic diversity, but the Deans who sit in the board have to agree with the proposed recommendations (the Board is comprised of 17 Deans across Canada). 

 

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9 minutes ago, LittleDaisy said:

I believe that the medical school costs is not determined by AFMC, but how much the provincial government is willing to invest

The barriers with AFMC is that they could recommend changes to each faculty of medicine for socio-economic diversity, but the Deans who sit in the board have to agree with the proposed recommendations (the Board is comprised of 17 Deans across Canada). 

 

Sorry I should have been more clear. I meant more along the lines of all of the extra costs of medical school. They would (and should already) reexamine the ridiculous costs of the portal + away electives plus the thousands of dollars students are expected to spend on CaRMS. 

I know that anything AFMC does requires buy in from the deans, but it’s disappointing how little gets done. It would take just one dean to stand up to set a new norm or speak out against how the portal and CaRMS costs are out of control, but they won’t and any meaningful change will take years. 

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6 hours ago, photato said:

Sorry I should have been more clear. I meant more along the lines of all of the extra costs of medical school. They would (and should already) reexamine the ridiculous costs of the portal + away electives plus the thousands of dollars students are expected to spend on CaRMS. 

I know that anything AFMC does requires buy in from the deans, but it’s disappointing how little gets done. It would take just one dean to stand up to set a new norm or speak out against how the portal and CaRMS costs are out of control, but they won’t and any meaningful change will take years. 

I apologize for being off topic, but I also don’t understand why the cost of the portal/applying for away electives is so expensive, especially since it’s first come, first served. If your application is denied, what are you paying for? :( 

To OP, I am only MS-2, but I personally didn’t realize how strong the sense of imposter syndrome would be in the first few months of medical school. I wish I had known beforehand how common it is. Although you might feel like your classmates know more than you/are smarter than you, know that you deserve to be there just as much as they do. :) Also, stay connected with your friends and family back home (if you’re going away). 

Congratulations on your acceptance! 

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When deciding on a specialty, be careful not to confuse your excitement with getting to do new things as your calling to a particular specialty. For example, on your emerg rotation your staff will be like "have you ever sutured before? no? go try on that dude's face" and you'll feel like a badass cowboy and think emerg is your calling. But 20 years into your career, you will not find half the things that excited you in medical school remotely interesting. Instead, try to see parts of a specialty you hate because they often don't go away or even get worse (e.g. call requirements, shift work, etc.)

Lots of good advice from others above. +1 for the following:

  1. Form a good friends/social circle
  2. Try to get exposure early on to different specialties before clerkship
  3. Think about CaRMS EARLY
  4. Start research/gunner activities early if you're even remotely thinking about something competitive. Otherwise, enjoy your summers.

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I wish I'd picked a hobby and made it second nature. It's tough to develop new hobbies or broaden your horizons once you're a cog in the system. I'd have picked a single long-term interest and really delved into it, like take classes it in or something. To the point where it becomes effortless to do it in everyday life because that is the only way it won't shrivel up from the nuclear fallout of medicine.

It's tough to spend any time on hobbies even when you're in med school, med school is time-consuming and difficult. So is every stage after this until retirement. There is never a good time to start. All you can do is start cutting out the tiniest bits of time you can find and throw it at something you care about in a meaningful way that will build up and make that hobby easier to do over time. If you already started in undergrad, good on you, keep it alive.

And if you can't even find that little amount of time, that's alright. Lots of people can't. But pay attention to that fact. Really be aware each step of the way that you are giving up precious things for medicine and importantly, come to terms with that. You might still regret it but you will regret it less than if you had gunned obliviously. And god forbid if you get hit with a terminal illness before you reach whatever goal you've planned, at least you'll know what you gambled on was by choice and you might be able to go down laughing.

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